[Editor's note: This is the seventh of our eight-part preview for the coming UAAP Season 82 women's volleyball tournament]
Last Season: Champions (12-2)
Key Holdovers: Kat Tolentino, Ponggay Gaston, Jaja Maraguinot, Jules Samonte, Dani Ravena
Returnees: Jho Maraguinot, Jamie Lavitoria
Newcomers: Faith Nisperos, Roma Doromal, Joan Narit
Departures: Bea De Leon, Maddie Madayag, Kim Gequillana
Injury list: Deanna Wong
Head Coach: Oliver Almadro (Second season)
ATENEO head coach Oliver Almadro has faith on the mix of seasoned players and talented rookies as the Lady Eagles defend their throne this coming UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball tournament.
Last season, the Lady Eagles reclaimed lost glory with a come-from-behind series Finals win, anchored by Kat Tolentino, Bea De Leon and Maddie Madayag, by outlasting the Sisi Rondina-led University of Santo Tomas in a best-of-three series that went the limit.
After reaching greater heights last year, Almadro hopes the Lady Eagles have yet to peak.
“We really want the championship. We really want to defend the title but it boils down to hard work, to how we put effort, our sacrifices in what we’re doing,” he said. “And of course yung faith. Kahit wala pa yan, we believe that we can make it.”
This year, the defending champions won’t have the leadership and solid wall of Madayag and De Leon as well as the veteran presence of Kim Gequillana anymore. Deanna Wong is also not fit to play due to a stress fracture on her right shin.
But the Lady Eagles remain intact as Tolentino decided to use her final playing year to stay alongside fellow holdovers Ponggay Gaston, Jules Samonte, Dani Ravena and sophomore setter Jaja Maraguinot.
Jho Maraguinot and Jamie Lavitoria also opted to return and use their final year of eligibility after skipping the past year, while Almadro was able to recruit prized rookies Faith Nisperos, Joan Narit and Roma Doromal.
Despite having the strong pieces for another title run, Almadro stressed that this season is not a walk in a park.
“I’m always saying it’s not about how strong you are, it’s about how you put your effort and how you put hard work in what you’re doing,” Almadro said. “Kumbaga di sapat yung magaling ka na, you have to love what you’re doing, you have to put enthusiasm para magkaroon ng team work and cohesiveness pa yung team.”
“Mindset namin is growth lagi kahit senior ka pa o kahit bata ka pa kailangan magiimprove lagi,” he added.
Every team will be after Ateneo’s hide this coming UAAP season; that’s why Almadro wants the Lady Eagles to take it one step at a time and stick to their mantra of "faith, trust, and courage" just like how they won it all last year.
“We’re taking it slowly but surely. We don’t want to rush things because defending a title is really hard. All eyes are on you, there’s a bull’s eye target at your back all the time. Yun yung medyo kailangan namin pagingatan,” Almadro said. “We’re aiming on what is above all the time.”
Check out the Lady Eagles' preview video below: